[Note by JasonB, 02/03/12 2:37 PM EST ] Will is a student who has submitted this article about growing up as an Eagles fan outside of Eagles country.
When I was seven years old, I stood in my uintessential Kentucky backyard tossing a football and running routes with my neighbor David Deyer. After several minutes, he paused the passing and said, "Will, you throw like Donovan Mcnabb." It made sense at the time that this seven-year-old, left-handed, pasty white boy flung the ball like the Philadelphia Eagles' star right-handed quarterback. I nodded once he finished as if I already knew it, then rushed inside and told my parents I had decided on my new favorite football team.
I followed the Birds with intensity. I had each starter's football card and as many jerseys as my parents would allow-of course, each one being Mcnabb. I was raised to believe a 70-30 pass to rush ratio was appropriate, to love the west coast offense (and chunky soup), to loathe the Dallas Cowboys entirely and that it was normal to lose three NFC championships in a row... as well as Belichick cheated-until it's proven otherwise.
However, in Kentucky, college basketball is king, eight championship titles and 2000 career wins-yadda, yadda, yadda. I didn't know anyone below the Mason-Dixon Line who cared about the Birds. If I found a football fan, chances were they loved the Bengals. "Who Dey?" accompanies almost every rear window confederate flag. I had to scour the newspapers to get a one-sentence rumor or mention of the Eagles and wait for when we faced the Cowboys or played Monday Night Football to see those crisp, white wings against our Midnight green helmets.
The strong Bengals presence, despite their lackluster history, pushed me to develop a love for the Birds' tradition. Even though at times I felt like a fugitive in Marvin Lewis country; I took pride in being the lone Kentuckian who bled green. There isn't much hate down in Kentucky for the Eagles, besides that awful tie game we had in 2008, so I'm not like a martyr who lives in Dallas or D.C. But I still didn't have a support group for this long distance fanship during some of the more difficult transitional times. When Mcnabb was let go, my heart was broken. I didn't believe in Vick or Kolb. I hated Dawkins' departure, Akers leaving, and I even felt a slight pain when L.J. Smith and Tra Thomas packed their bags. Each player became a brother, a brother who lives 651 miles away.